Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bringing the '70s roots to parenting today

From today's Briefing:

I’m a conflicted child of the 1970s.
I eschew bellbottoms, yet I embrace a fine paisley print.
Avocado green is all wrong, yet harvest gold is perfectly acceptable.
No, thank you, Black Sabbath, Rush and Deep Purple. Yes, please, Allman Brothers, Queen and Fleetwood Mac.
Total disregard for child safety is troubling, yet a little loosey-goosey parenting is refreshing. Perhaps even necessary.
I rode in the bed of pickups. I didn’t wear a seatbelt in a car until 1985, when a state law forced me to. I first doffed a bicycle helmet when I was an adult.
I was thrown off merry-go-rounds and blistered on scorching metal slides. I swam at public pools crowded with kids and supervised by only a couple of teenage lifeguards — every single time without a drop of sunscreen protecting my fair, freckled skin.
Truly, we 40-somethings are fortunate to be alive.
How do we celebrate? By smothering our own children. By stepping in so often that we shield them from real life. By depriving them opportunities to learn how to survive.
I’m working on revisiting my ’70s roots, albeit with a 21st-century mind-set.
I credit the Boy Scouts for largely reshaping my parenting style.
About once a month, my son packs gear for a weekend away. He’s completely in charge of the whole camping-prep affair. If he forgets to pack socks or underwear, sunscreen or bug repellant, I’m not rescuing him.
After all, it’s Boy Scouts, not Mom Scouts. Cooper can survive two days without toothpaste or a hat. If he really needs something, he can barter with other Scouts, and perhaps he’s more likely to remember it next time. Maybe.
He starts fires and wields knives. He cooks and cleans. He builds shelters using grass, twigs and branches. All without the benefit — or hindrance — of my supervision. It’s been good training for him and even better training for me.
Tuesday afternoon, I was in my classroom, frantically answering emails and prepping for Wednesday in an effort to get out the door in time to pick up Cooper from his school and deliver him to a different school for a tennis match.
My phone rings.
“Hey, Momma. A friend’s dad can drive me to Wakeland. I’ll get there faster. Is that OK?”
Without hesitation, I said yes and wished him good luck. Only after the phone call did I realize that I didn’t even ask who the friend is or what the dad’s name is or does he drive a reliable car with seat belts.
Hours later, I parked at the courts to retrieve my son. He had won both matches — without me there to holler his name or clap real loud or repeatedly take his photo. In fact, there were very few parents there. Most just drop off and pick up, Cooper tells me, as visibility is sketchy, depending on which court you’re assigned, and no one really knows who will play when.
A sporting event without an entourage of paparazzi parents? It was almost like we’d stepped back in time.
Now, let’s be honest. I’m never going to be a full-on 1970s mom. I’ll insist on sunscreen every time we go to the neighborhood pool, and no, I’m not going to just drop off. Every single night, I’ll ask if homework is complete and most nights, I’ll spot-check assignments. I plan to take photos at most parties, performances and games.
Yet just this week, at the middle school winter band concert, I left my phone and camera in my purse. I didn’t record a single note of music. I listened, with my hands free and my mind clear. It was groovy. Can you dig it?
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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